Could these collaboration tools boost your productivity?

Workplaces across industries have sought to streamline communication and promote collaboration between employees through internal messaging platforms. Could these services be useful for your bank?

By Judith Sears

Few people in the 21st-century workplace have escaped the dreaded email chain with too many recipients, no ability to track input through exchanges and the inevitable morphing of subject matter while the subject line stays the same. And just try to pull together a functioning team from employees separated by schedules, locations and even time zones.

In the past decade, various internal communication and collaboration platforms have emerged that are designed to improve productivity and communication in the workplace. These platforms create an internal hub where employees can access projects, centralize their communication and work together.

The idea is to focus on minimizing the amount of spin and iterations that are often caused by email threads, according to Kevin Gibbs, CEO and cofounder of Quip, a productivity suite that was purchased by Salesforce in 2016. “It’s a bane of productivity.”

Quick stat

281 billion

emails were estimated to be sent in 2018. That figure is projected to jump to 333 billion by 2020

Source: Radacti Group

Collaboration platforms eliminate switching between email and the application where you get work done. File sharing, chat rooms and instant messaging make it possible to make changes to a project directly and transparently.

“We’ve been switching between one place where we’re doing work and one place where we’re talking about the work,” Gibbs says. “Why not do both in the same place? That’s dramatically more productive. Just dive in and talk right there.”

Typically, internal collaboration platforms combine several features. They can be divided roughly into two types: platforms that excel in communication and emphasize capabilities such as video conferencing, meetings, screen sharing and instant messaging; and platforms that excel in project management and emphasize capabilities such as filesharing, instant messaging, task assignments and chat rooms.

Microsoft Skype for Business and Google Hangouts Meet are examples of platforms strong in communication. Of the many competitors in the project management space, some of the most widely used include Quip, Slack, Trello and Wrike.

How do you use them?

Most platforms are accessible by a number of devices, usually a desktop, tablet and smartphone. Nearly all of the platforms are cloud-based or have a cloud option, so there is no cumbersome software installation or server-capacity issues.

Community banks may stand to benefit from these capabilities. For instance, suppose your loan officer in the field needs information for a customer. Rather than having to pause the conversation and pick up the phone, “the loan officer can fire off the question to someone in the back office who can quickly supply the answer,” explains Matthew Speare, chief information officer of $4.3 billion-asset Carter Bank & Trust in Martinsville, Va.

“If you want to stand out, you need good collaboration tools that will make you super-efficient.”
—Prabhash Shrestha, ICBA

Reviewing mortgage applications can also be easier and quicker. “There needs to be some kind of interaction between bank staff to look at a mortgage application,” says Prabhash Shrestha, ICBA executive vice president and chief digital strategy officer. “But time is of the essence. If you want to stand out, you need good collaboration tools that will make you super-efficient.”

Like any purchase, when choosing among possible platforms, first define your community bank’s business need. For example, do you primarily need more real-time communication for your team, or a better visual display of project tasks? Defining that will ensure you’re investing in the right tech for your needs.

In a busy, fragmented workplace, internal collaboration platforms provide the means to communicate and work together productively. “I’m a believer in operational excellence,” Shrestha concludes. “These tools help bankers and staff do tasks much better and more efficiently.”

Collaboration platforms: Is there an impact on compliance?

Many collaboration platforms are searchable, which can be an asset in dealing with regulators. With all of your related documents on one platform, and the capability to search and extract information, you can demonstrate how your bank came to a decision, down to providing meeting minutes and who gave what input when.

“These collaboration tools provide robust proof for regulators.”
—Matthew Speare, Carter Bank & Trust

“Regulators grade on results, but they want to see documentation of the process you went through,” says Matthew Speare of Carter Bank & Trust. “These collaboration tools provide robust proof for regulators.”

However, just about anything related to banking has regulatory implications, and collaboration platforms are no exception. As with email, it’s critical to establish bank-wide rules for platform use.

The first rules should be: no customer information on the platform and no customer communication via the platform. These tools are for internal collaboration only.

“You would never want to directly communicate with a customer via one of these platforms,” Speare urges. “You never want to have it directly customer-facing.”

Judith Sears is a writer in Colorado.